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Old 10-15-2012, 12:15 PM   #1
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Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

I don't see photos of front tables on the SMB web site and am told they can't mount them in the cockpit area because of warranty issues (the transmission is under there). With the front seats facing each other there is (barely) knee room for two and so, always trying to make efficient use of space, I set out to design a table mounting system for the Sprinter. If we can eat up front then we can leave the bed set up in the back all the time. With windows on three sides the front is a great place to eat when outdoors is not an option (lunch stops, rain, hot days, cold days).

My requirements for a front table are
  • Come and go from the driver seat while table is in place (The standard table position aft of the seats does not allow this when there is a cabinet behind the driver)[/*:m:1ghz61ai]
  • Ability to rotate seats while sitting in the seat and while table is in place, so we can aim somewhat forward depending on the view[/*:m:1ghz61ai]
  • Mount should work for laptop[/*:m:1ghz61ai]
  • Come and go from passenger seat with seat facing forward and laptop in place (for example to get drinks while underway)[/*:m:1ghz61ai]
  • Easy to set up and switch tables[/*:m:1ghz61ai]
  • Access to drink holders in front of laptop (Sprinter does not have a good convenient place for two large drinks)[/*:m:1ghz61ai]
  • Ability to remove all mounting hardware before taking the van in for service (to avoid warranty issues and so they have access to the transmission under the floor)[/*:m:1ghz61ai]

Since I have my new Sprinter for a month before SMB Indiana starts construction, I am working on this now.

My first idea was to install a vertical post on a custom anchor point mounted to the seat bases. This didn't work because the post is in the way of our legs and would not allow rotating the seats while sitting in them.

My second idea made use of the storage compartment just above the ashtray. The plastic storage insert pulls out to reveal a single DIN (2"x7") slot. I made a prototype out of foam board to see if I could meet all the above requirements:





The table mount sticks into the DIN slot but the weight of the table would put too much torque on the dash so I added a leg to the floor for support. I removed the floor mats to see what was down there. Nothing helpful, so I plan to cut a hole in the floor mats so the leg will sit on the steel floor and the mat will keep it from sliding around. There is a wire hooked inside the DIN slot and wrapped around the post to keep the mount from coming out of the DIN slot. It is tight enough in the slot so that it does not wobble back and forth.

I think this works really well. As you can see, my knees have barely enough room to rotate the seat when it is forward enough for the back of the seat to clear the door:



And although leg and foot room is tight, we do fit:







Note that I also mocked up the counter that will go behind the driver seat. There is lots of room to come and go from the driver seat with the dining table in place. This table is 20x24 inches but I think there is room to make it a couple inches larger. The cut-off corners make it easier to get in and out, but probably are not necessary. The table is just an inch from the vent controls and rests on top of the shift lever.

I am also really happy with how the laptop mount turned out:



Note above that there is access to the drinks while laptop is in place.



The laptop feet keep it in place, but I will probably have to add Velcro to the bottom of the laptop for rough roads.



Both the dining table and laptop mount meet all the requirements above. They each have a 1.25" dowel on the bottom that fits in the hole in the mount, so they can be rotated to any angle. When the laptop faces aft, we can both see the Delorme street atlas while driving. The seat elbow rests do not get in the way. The passenger will be able to surf the web while under way using the 3G/4G antenna on the roof.

If I don't hear of any problems that you guys can think of, I will build the final version out of wood. I will make a telescoping leg out of steel conduit and PVC pipe. I will post more photos here when done.

David
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Old 10-15-2012, 01:54 PM   #2
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

David,
I think your table idea is very innovative and your mock-up is very cool but it doesn't look that comfortable to me. Not enough leg room for two people. Looking at your floor plan you have a nice dinette area in the back that would work much better in most cases. you're only using your bed setup 1/3 of the time so I'd make use of that area for meals, reading, etc and you still have enough fixed bed in the back to take a nap. Plus your TV is back there

From the times I tried the swivel seats I found it a chore to move them. The position of the seat back had to be just right in order to swivel it so my preference would be to always leave the driver's seat in the same position so I don't have to keep adjusting it, especially for only a lunch break. You used to be able to order only one swivel but I was told MBenz now requires you to do them as a pair so you'd have to do it afterwards if only wanting a passenger swivel. Since you plan to make the table yourself I'd wait until you have your build done and then see how that works out for you and if you need a front area table. Plus for lunch use when traveling it's probably nice to get out of the seat you've been sitting in for a while.

How far away from SMB Indiana are you?
(EDIT - I see that Lafayette to Huntington is 90 miles/2 hrs. That's not too bad of a drive)
If you are close by you can always do some add-ons later as you gain more experience using your van or do them yourself.

In looking at your floor plans, which are very cool by the way, do you plan to sleep side to side or front to back? that low hanging cabinet only leaves you 15" above the platform bed so I'm guess front to back with heads to the front. I think you have a great design and lots of creature comforts but for me it looks a little too claustrophobic with a lot of tall cabinets, especially with that low hanging cabinet in the back. Hope it all works out for you.
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Old 10-15-2012, 04:39 PM   #3
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

Have you looked at the mobile office segment?

I have a Jotto Desk in my work truck. It is the same thing police cars use for mobile data terminals. Mine has a large work surface and swings away.

I believe Outside Van has a swing arm that attaches to the floor behind the passenger seat near the "b" pillar and has a curved arm that swings a nice table into position.

Sorry no pictures of either, they have good ones on each manufactures sites.
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Old 10-15-2012, 07:40 PM   #4
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

Windguy,

Thanks for your comments and advice. I agree the leg room is tight when we face each other, but it is better when we turn a little towards the front or the back.

Setting up the dinette in back is definitely more effort than setting up the table in the front, so if we are traveling across country stopping at rest stops for lunch and Walmarts for the night, I think it will not be worth the trouble setting up the dinette. The other thing is that we will have a better view out windows up front. In the Great West Van we rented (see other topic) we never set up the dinette in back. We ate up front several times and used picnic tables at campgrounds other times. Anyway, with Vanessa we definitely will use the dinette much of the time, but it is nice to have an alternative when convenient.

The swivel seats work very well in our van. Here is the routine for the driver seat: Move the seat forward, reach around the back with your left and and push on the release lever, start rotating to the right, remove your arm, move forward more if necessary until your knees almost touch the shift lever, stop turning at the desired position, then move the seat back until it hits the door. After I have done this a few times it takes less than 10 seconds and I do not consider it more of a chore than taking off my boots. My table support does not get in the way. I am 6'2" with long legs.

My drive to Huntington is just under 2 hours (about the same as Chumley). I am sure I will go back for repairs and maybe additions, but I do like to do things myself. I am retired and have the time.

You are right our heads go at the forward end of the bed. I put a 2x4 across our bed at home at the same location 47" from the headboard and 15" high. I left it there for several weeks. At first I had it at 46" and 14" high and my knee hit it several times, so I moved it and never noticed the restriction after that. I don't want to tow a trailer or have any external storage that makes the van larger, but I want room for an inflatable 2-person kayak and other toys and supplies. So the big garage in the back is the answer.

Firetrux,

I have spent some time Google searching for laptop mounts, and got some ideas but never anything that does what I want. I looked at the Outside Van site and didn't see the table you mention. The problem is that I need to be able to swing my knees and feet all around without any obstruction. So the mount has to all come from the front, and it has to be strong enough for a dining table and stable so drinks don't spill. I figure the only way to get this is to build myself. Also I think a nice wood support will look better than those steel pipes and fittings.

Thanks for your comments and thanks to all for reading.

David
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Old 10-16-2012, 01:31 AM   #5
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

David,
It sounds like you've put some careful thought into your design features. that's great.
Customizing your van to your liking is the beauty of going with SMB.
I like the way you are mocking things up to try them out before having it built or building it yourself.
Best of luck with your build. Keep us posted.
Cheers!
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Old 10-16-2012, 10:45 AM   #6
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

Your table location looks good to me if that is where you prefer to sit and there is plenty of existing overhead lighting at this location I would suggest adding a switchable LED light (blue or red) on the bottom side of your support arm so you can see the floor when you have the table or lab top in place and you drop something in low light conditions or while driving. Plug it into the accessory power port on the dash, and may be add a 12v power port underneath at the back edge too so you don't have to grope around under neath to plug in the laptop or cell. And you wont have to worry about cords tangled in your feet.
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Old 10-16-2012, 01:35 PM   #7
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

Dave,

This is exactly something that I need. I too wanted to be able to have 2 spaces that could be used independently. One for dining and working and one for lounging and sleeping.

Right now we set up the table on the tripod and turn the front seats around. It works fine but no one is going anywhere until the table is moved.

If you figure this out you should sell it to SMB or someone because I think that this is really needed and wanted by some of us.

If you figure it out I will buy one. Please keep us posted on this.

Thanks.

Chumley
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Old 10-24-2012, 09:13 PM   #8
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

Dave,

What's the latest here? I'm getting impatient waiting for my table.

No pressure...

Seriously, I hope you can figure something out. It doesn't look like an easy chore but my money is on you figuring it out.

Good luck.

Chumley
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:29 AM   #9
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

Chumley,

I just went on a 4-day 500 mile trip with the table mock-up, using it for just the laptop. It works great. I have designed the wood one and hope to finish it within a week.

David
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Old 11-13-2012, 04:58 PM   #10
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Re: Front dining table and laptop mount for Sprinters

I finished and installed the new table mount made out of wood and painted black. The leg on the table has a 1/4" diameter screw that goes through a hole in the floor mat and sits on the steel floor. This makes the mount rock solid. I still need to improve and paint the screw on the upper end that locks the table in place.

The table is made out of a double layer of heavy duty 1/4" Mightycore foam board with a canvas print wrapped around the sides. The print has several coats of a clear varnish. The table is light weight but plenty strong for normal use (you can't sit on it). Wires below the mount connect to the DIN slot to keep the mounting from sliding back.

The large drinks you see on the table nicely fit in the new drink holders.

The table and mount meet all the requirements listed in the original post.





There are more photos in my gallery.

I showed this to SMB Indiana and they liked it but said they could not provide something like this as a MBz authorized conversion company because of warranty issues.

I am working on a set of plans in case others want to make one. You will need only a table saw and a drill and a day of your time. My printing company www.Redipix.com can make the table for you from your photo.

Let me know if you have questions.

David
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